By Tyler Allen Explorebigsky.com Staff Writer
BIG SKY – The Calcutta auction is returning to the Big Sky Pro Bull Riders
event this summer, bringing in cash for area nonprofits over the course of
two nights for the first time. Adding to the thrill of watching the best riders in
the business test their skills on the country’s top bulls, winning Calcutta
betters have another reason to cheer for 8-second rides.
On July 31 and Aug. 1, the forty riders will be split into eight teams of five
with each team auctioned off to the highest bidder. All the money will be
pooled and the top scoring team will pay out 70 percent, the second team,
20 percent, and third team, 10 percent. That money is split in half between
the winning bidders and this year’s receiving nonprofits, Big Sky Community
Corp. and Yellowstone Park Foundation.
“We are very appreciative of receiving proceeds from the PBR events for
Yellowstone National Park,” said YPF President Karen Kress. Additionally, the
Calcutta will bring attention to the fact that, through YPF, anyone can
become a steward of Yellowstone, she said.
“The coolest thing [about the Calcutta] is it adds a whole other level of
excitement if you’re involved in one of the teams,” said John Haas, director of
the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation, which was created this spring and
is sponsoring this year’s auctions.
“This is an opportunity to help raise money for two great organizations,”
Haas said, “as well as raise awareness for the newly formed Spanish Peaks
The Calcutta at the Big Sky PBR is a charitable event, but continues a
wagering tradition that’s practiced on a wide range of modern-day contests
including golf, backgammon and the NCAA basketball tournament. But this
style of betting can be traced back to early 19th century horseracing in
colonial Calcutta, India.
Tickets were generally sold to the public for 10 rupees apiece and capped at
100. So many more tickets were sold than horses racing, that each was
entered into a lottery. One ticket would be pulled for each horse, giving the
winning ticket holder exclusive betting rights on that horse. Then, each
winning ticket would be auctioned off to the highest bidder with half the
money going to the original ticket holder, the other half into the pool. Each horse, dependent on where they placed, would pay out a percentage of the
pool to the winning bidders.
“[The Calcutta] adds a lot for the fans that buy a team,” said Chad Berger of
Mandan, N.D., who provides the bulls for the Big Sky PBR. “It’s more exciting
for them and makes them feel more of a part of the event.”
Berger provides bulls for 35-40 events a season and, he says, only about a
half dozen hold a Calcutta auction. One of those is held at the Built Ford
Tough World Finals in Las Vegas for the Rider Relief Fund, which provides
financial assistance to athletes, bull riders and bull fighters, injured in the
competitive sport of bull riding, according to their website.
The auction brought in $18,000 for BSCC last year, and with an additional
night of auctioning this year, event planners are hoping the Calcutta will
raise significant funds for BSCC and YPF.
“There’s no wilder Calcutta than the one in Big Sky,” Berger said. “They
really let their checkbooks fly there.”